Fluoride Action Network

Utah fluoride debate back on the hill

Source: Standard Examiner | Standard-Examiner Capitol Bureau
Posted on January 22nd, 2003
Location: United States, Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — The flap over fluoride found a new platform Tuesday when a Centerville lawmaker introduced a bill that would let voters vote again and again on whether they want the compound in their water.

Rep. Roger Barrus, R-Centerville, is sponsoring a bill that would allow county or city voters the opportunity to re-vote on a decision to add or remove fluorine from their water.

In November 2000, Davis County voters made such a decision and now some residents are regretting it, Barrus said.

“I have had quite a number of people who voted for fluoride tell me that they misunderstood or were misinformed,” Barrus said. “And the law makes no provision for a revote.”

The bill passed through the House Political Subdivisions Standing Committee meeting with one dissenting vote made by Barrus himself. Barrus registered opposition to his own bill because of his dislike for a passed amendment that would require that at least five years pass before voters can revisit the issue of fluoridation.

The amendment will also require that an election to revisit the issue occur during an even-numbered year. Municipal elections generally occur during odd-numbered years, but backers of the amendment reasoned that during even-numbered years, when presidential and other higher-profile elections occur, more voters will be drawn to the polls.

The debate representing both views was lively and robust.

Bountiful City Manager Thomas Hardy encouraged lawmakers to include the amendment that would space out the frequency between the votes, saying that anything less would create “an untenable” situation for municipal officials.

Joining him with that argument was attorney David Irvine of Bountiful, who warned legislators of the bewildering situation that would ensue if local officials had to make decisions about investing capital in fluoride implementation when the whim of voters could switch every two years.

“When there is the uncertainty of a vote to be taken what does a responsible and prudent city council do?” Irvine said. “This is legislation that would cause more chaos than benefit unless there was an amendment that spaced out the interval of the vote.”

Lloyd Selleneit, a former Utah Representative for Davis County, disagreed that there needed to be spaced-out elections. He said it was not up to lawmakers to determine whether voters thought it was worth absorbing capital costs to get rid of fluoride sooner than later.

Barrus was critical of the Davis County Health Department”s cost estimates of adding fluoride to the water supply, as printed in the November 2000 voter information pamphlet.

He said that the county health department had said it would cost about $1.93 per resident a year to fluoridate while in most cases that cost will be considerably higher for most cities. In the case of Layton, it is estimated that it would cost double that amount per resident.

“In most cases the projected costs stated were grossly underestimated,” Barrus said. “We have cities that have to bond because of the cost of fluoride and many of them are struggling with that.”

Davis County Health Department director Lewis Garrett defended his agencies handling of the situation. Garrett said the cost estimates were based on national averages, and that he stands by the decision to cite that source.

“When this is all said and done, I still believe that Davis County residents will pay no more than the national average,” Garrett said.